Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oxfam: Climate change could leave 75 million homeless

In the midst of a three-day meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh 21 of the poorest countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific who are trying to draft a climate change declaration received ominous news.

Oxfam Australia says that climate change could leave up to 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region homeless by 2050. The Future is Here: Climate Change says that these island nations are already suffering from drought, food shortages and rising water levels.

“People are already leaving their homes because of climate change, with projections that 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be forced to relocate by 2050 if climate change continues unabated," says Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett. "Not all will have the option of relocating within their own country, so it’s vital that the Australian Government starts working with Pacific governments to plan for this now.”

The Australian government which has committed $150 million to help islanders adapt to climate change will host the Pacific Islands Forum next week where climate change talks are expected to dominate the proceedings. Hewett adds that Australia needs to show leadership at the meetings and that it is willing to do its fair share to mitigate climate change in the region.

To meet existing needs in the region Oxfam says that Australia should immediately double its financial commitment to $300 million and cut its emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

The report details how nations at risk have already begun to adapt. In Micronesia and parts of the Solomon Islands villagers have been forced to move to higher ground. Mangroves and native grasses have been planted on Fiji in an effort to abate coastal erosion. Other measures have been put in place to protect Fijian food staples and water supply.

In Dhaka, the Bangladesh minister for environment and forests, Mostafizur Rahman said, "It is a matter of life and death for us." The countries attending the Dhaka conference are low carbon emitters who suffer disproportionate to their carbon footprint. By speaking with one voice these vulnerable nations hope to be heard during the Copenhagen round of climate change talks in December.

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